Seoul is a stunning city, full of impressive temples, interesting people, home of K-pop and amazing street food – oh yes the food. One of the reasons many people choose to visit Seoul is to take themselves out of the comfort zone, and for me, it certainly did not disappoint. Here are my five Seoul travel tips to help you if it’s your first time visiting this incredible city.
Purchase a TCard on arrival
The first thing you need to purchase is a T-card, which can be picked up at any convenience store (GS25, 7-Eleven, Ministop, With Me, Story Way, etc.) With this card, you can save the hassle of purchasing single journey tickets for every ride and enjoy discounts on rides during transfers from one bus to another, one subway line to another, or from bus to subway or vice versa.
When you look at the metro system map it can be daunting but do not panic because it’s very easy to use and all of the signs and announcements are in English. Phew!
Download Google Translate app
While some of the locals do speak English, many do not and if you find yourself in a tricky situation the best tool to have on you is the Google Translate app.
You can speak into the app in English and within seconds it will translate it to Korean, and while it did cause a few giggles, it helped me out every single time. Also, you can scan the Korean writing on the restaurant menus and it translates it into English too, simply the best tool for travellers.
Another app worth downloading is Google Maps because it helps you when choosing which exit you should take when coming out of the subway stations. The disappointing thing about this app is that it does not give you walking directions for some reason, so also download City-mapper app for that, along with maps for metro and other public transport.
Purchasing a SIM Card
Until recently, it was very difficult to purchase a SIM card in Seoul, and it meant that you had to hire a Mi-Fi dongle to connect your mobile or laptop for the internet, which was very expensive.
While many places have free WiFi these days, the easiest way to purchase a SIM card is to visit one of the main stations, like Seoul Station, and visit the travel centre. There are a number of plans, but For 30,000 won (approx £20/$26) you can purchase a EG SIM card which will give you 1GB of data. The travel centre will set up the SIM for you, and it was very simple to use.
Use the bell in restaurants
On entering the restaurant, the waiter/waitress will take you to a table, hand you a menu and then leave you to choose what you would like to eat. When you first visit Seoul you will probably wait for them to come back and take your order, but you could be waiting for a while.
In most restaurants, there’s a bell next to the table that you press and they will come and take your order. This really baffled me at first.
Don’t leave a tip
When in Seoul you do not need to leave a tip as it is not expected. On the few occasions where I left a tip at a restaurant, the member of staff came running out and handed me the money back. Taxi drivers don’t expect any reward for their services and it’s pretty much the same for staff in hotels.
Here is your bonus tip!
Don’t be offended if you’re pushed around
The first time this happens you will be shocked and rather annoyed, but if you dawdle while walking around, a local person is very likely to push you to one side, or brush past you.
You will notice a few older people do this to tourists who are wondering around with their large suitcases and not paying attention to people trying to get past them. You’ll also notice that the locals are always rushing around, especially on the subway. When you arrive at a station and are unsure where to go, just step aside and let others pass before trying to find assistance.
Hopefully, these Seoul travel tips will help you on your first visit to this amazing city.